Just a couple of weeks ago we were making lead and traffic demand generation projections for 2019 for one of our inbound marketing clients which is a SaaS company. While we were very excited for the optimistic goals we were setting up for ourselves next year, a critical question struck us. Can you guess what that question could have been? We, in fact, threw a similar question at you in one of our recent blogs: Inbound Marketing Hacks for 2019. In case you haven’t read the blog yet or can’t recall the question let me refresh your memory: Imagine the best case scenario where say we meet all our traffic and lead projections and even grow traffic and leads by 100% in 2019! It sounds absolutely fantastic but what after that? Is there any potential left for more growth? In a scenario where the search volume of the keywords we are trying to rank our website for remains constant, will we be able to grow another 100% in the year after that too? sounds highly unlikely right? We thought that too but instead of planning to put up a white flag and surrender, we came up with a possible solution to what seemed like a dead end.
Brand building and demand generation!
Demand generation is about creating a need for your product or service. It starts with educating people about a problem they face, offering them a solution to their problem and illustrating why your solution is the one they should choose.
While it sounds really exciting for consumer goods like soft drinks and face creams, it’s actually not that straightforward when it comes to SaaS companies.
Let’s look in detail how this multi-step process works.
If your product is in a niche industry then most of your time should be spent in educating people about the problem and the solution that you offer. Some of them won’t know they have a problem and others might not know a solution existed. Both these segments should be your main focus. Invest in a lot of content that tells people about the problem and your solution. Be it blogs, videos, webinars, meetups, conferences, social media - get in front of people and tell them they have a problem!
One great example of this is HubSpot and how they dedicatedly focused on educating people about inbound marketing through their thought-provoking articles, social media posts, videos and other tools for content promotion. In this process, HubSpot didn't just made people aware of the problem with interruptive marketing and sales tactics but also provided them with a solution in the form of inbound marketing which has now become the mainstay of marketing.
Once your audience is educated about the problem and your solution, create content targeting benefits of choosing you. Webinars and ebooks are a great way to do this. Webinars focusing on product demo, features and ebooks detailing your unique selling point that sets you apart from other solutions to customer’s problem should be the key part of this strategy.
It’s not enough to tell customers that they have a problem and you offer a solution. Make them believe that your solution is the best one out there.
As an additional bonus, get your prospects to fill a form in exchange for a free ebook or webinar. This data will be invaluable for future lead nurturing campaigns.
Offer free resources
SaaS customers rarely take any hasty purchase decisions. There is a lot of research behind a SaaS purchase. Hence, prospects will appreciate it more if it is readily available and is absolutely free.
Offer free tools, whitepapers, reports, pricing guidelines, pros and cons and more! Anything and everything that will help your customer in making a purchase decision should be available on your site.
Information is key. If you don’t provide it, someone else will. And your prospect is more likely to go with the company offering information and solution in comparison to a company just offering a solution.
Let them try out your product
You have educated them. You have sold yourself as the best fit. Prospects now know a lot about the problem, about the solution and about your product. But they need to experience the product before making a purchase decision.
Offer a free trial period so that prospects can try out your product and see if it is a good fit for them. As always, be ready to provide tons of resources on how-to, help videos, step by step guides for the prospect.
Don’t forget word of mouth!
Everyone agrees that word of mouth marketing is the best marketing that a company can have. Not only is it inexpensive, everyone tries out something that is personally suggested to them by people in their lives.
It can get the word out about your product quickly with significant results. Word of mouth marketing is the reason for Slack, a collaboration and communication tool, to be recognized as one of the fastest growing SaaS company growing in value by $4 billion in just 4 years. Slack’s co-founder, Stewart Butterfield, asked all his contacts and connections to try out slack before its launch.
This wraps up the first part of the puzzle. You have educated the prospect and created demand. Let's move on to the next piece of the puzzle: Branding.
Most SaaS companies offer B2B products and are not focused on branding. Many people think that branding is important for consumer products but not for B2B companies. They could not be more wrong.
Branding acts as a way to differentiate you from other similar companies and increases likeability. Branding creates trust in the mind of a consumer. SaaS customers don’t just research the product, they research the company as well. Company’s reputation, relationship with its past customers, values can all affect the decision to buy.
You have educated the prospect about the solution. Next step is to be the only company to pop in the prospect’s mind when they think about their problem. Illustrating that you are the best solution to a problem is not enough. In the customer’s mind, you should aim to be the ONLY solution.
Branding is not just a logo or a font or a colour that people attach with a company. Branding is about a message. A clear message that tells everyone what your company believes in and how your product is going to help in that endeavour.
Nike’s “Just Do It” is not just about a slogan. It is a philosophy that Nike believes in. It is a promise to consumers that if you are a person who believes in doing what is necessary no matter how hard it is, Nike is the best product for you.
Translate the same concept to the SaaS landscape. Salesforce's “No Software” was a clear indication of their philosophy and their cloud-based product. Let people know what you believe in and how your product will help people.
Once you have defined your brand and your core philosophy, the next step is to use that brand to position yourself in mind of a consumer. This is called Brand Positioning. To put it simply, brand positioning is trying to create a unique place in the customer’s mind. To put it even more bluntly, it answers the question “Out of all the available options, why should I choose you?”
The SaaS ecosystem is crowded and it is necessary to distinguish yourself from the herd. Every SaaS company is trying to offer a solution that is more or less the same as someone else. Brand positioning helps you create a unique place in consumer’s mind such that your company is the one they think about when referring to their problem.But how to do that?
Create a Brand Positioning Statement
A brand positioning statement is supposed to answer 3 questions :
- What you are?
- What sets you apart from your competitors?
- Who are you targeting?
For example, Amazon’s brand positioning statement in 2001 was:“For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.”
Create a tagline
Nothing is more efficient at capturing a customer’s mind than a tagline. It sticks for years. Even non-user of a product is able to recognize a company just by its tagline. It’s that powerful!Make a memorable tagline that resonates with target customers.
Final piece: Combine all the above into unique marketing campaigns
Marketing campaigns are not just about products anymore. They are about culture. A culture that encompasses brand philosophy, tagline and the personality of a target segment. Think about what if your company was a person. What would it say? How will it talk? What will be its personality? Is that personality aligned with the personality of the target segment?Create marketing campaigns keeping all the above in mind. To give you a recent example, Netflix India noticed a torrent of memes about their use of Radhika Apte in most of their Indian content. Netflix India jumped on the opportunity to create marketing material acknowledging the same. Netflix India is focused on late teens to late twenties crowd in India and thus have built their brand personality the same way. It’s no wonder “Netflix and chill” is a phrase and “amazon prime and relax” is not!Another example is of HipChat, a messaging company, putting up a meme on a prime location billboard.
They know their target audience and want to communicate in the same way. This creates a very unique image of your company in mind of the customer.
The solution to generate more demand is simple: Educate people. Educate them about the problem, educate them about the solution and educate them about why your company has the best solution out of many.
Additionally, powerful branding along with unique marketing will help you cement a permanent place in customer’s mind. The aim should be to make your brand synonymous with the industry.
Combine all three and your bottom line is going to look more lucrative than ever!In situations where there seems to be a limit to growth, remember the famous quote by Ronald Reagan "There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder". It applies to the world of marketing too!